Experts have warned Wirral is seeing signs of more young people using heroin.
The comments were made during a Wirral Council health and social care meeting. Statistics show there were 205 hospital admissions for drug-related issues for those aged 15 to 24 between 2018 to 2021, higher than the national average.
Across all ages, it is estimated more than 3,000 people use opiates or crack cocaine on the Wirral with more than 1,000 not in treatment. Across Wirral, 77% of all opiate clients live in the most deprived areas and 45% are aged over the age of 50.
There were 121 drug-related deaths between 2019 and 2021 with numbers increasing and councillors have approved a policy to tackle drug abuse on the Wirral. The policy looks to build on previous work with Wirral Council receiving £2.2m this year and an expected £4m the next given rates of drug use on the Wirral are higher than average.
Former council leader Janette Williamson, who now chairs the committee, asked what had changed since the heroin epidemic of the 1980s that “particularly flooded Merseyside.”
Gary Rickwood, manager of Wirral’s Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) said they were still seeing issues with “very powerful organised crime interestingly in the same places in the Wirral that it was in the 1980s.”
However, he said, “Probably until relatively recently we haven’t seen new young opiate users. I think the opiate population we had was almost like a deterrent to the generations following behind.”
He said there was concern that might be wearing off with people being able to get drugs through the internet, illegally manufactured tablets, and cocaine use increasing significantly, adding, “We are beginning to see some signs of young people using heroin.”
Mr Rickwood also said the older population of drug users were now dying as a result of health issues.
The Wirral Ways to Recovery programme, which is based in Birkenhead, was praised by councillors but Cllr Julie McManus pointed to issues of deprivation in her ward Bidston and St James to ask what outreach was being done outside Birkenhead.
Cllr McManus was told that a number of different GP practices were part of the council’s outreach but she said she did not think “they are an answer on their own.” She called for community centres to be included, which will become part of the new strategy going forward.
Councillors at the meeting also approved a £21.1m contract for sexual health services as well as a £42m contract providing equipment for people with health needs to support them in their home or at school.
It was also confirmed that a new naming and shaming care policy for care homes that have been rated poorly will go live on 1 July with the policy brought in to help the public when deciding where to place their loved ones.
If you are concerned about any of the issues raised in this article, support from Wirral Ways can be found on their website
Image: Wirral Ways to Recovery is based in Market Street, Birkenhead. Credit: www.birkenhead2020.com